The Red Badge of Courage HTML version

Chapter 24
The roarings that had stretched in a long line of sound across the face of the forest began
to grow intermittent and weaker. The stentorian speeches of the artillery continued in
some distant encounter, but the crashes of the musketry had almost ceased. The youth and
his friend of a sudden looked up, feeling a deadened form of distress at the waning of
these noises, which had become a part of life. They could see changes going on among
the troops. There were marchings this way and that way. A battery wheeled leisurely. On
the crest of a small hill was the thick gleam of many departing muskets.
The youth arose. "Well, what now, I wonder?" he said. By his tone he seemed to be
preparing to resent some new monstrosity in the way of dins and smashes. He shaded his
eyes with his grimy hand and gazed over the field.
His friend also arose and stared. "I bet we're goin' t' git along out of this an' back over th'
river," said he.
"Well, I swan!" said the youth.
They waited, watching. Within a little while the regiment received orders to retrace its
way. The men got up grunting from the grass, regretting the soft repose. They jerked their
stiffened legs, and stretched their arms over their heads. One man swore as he rubbed his
eyes. They all groaned "O Lord!" They had as many objections to this change as they
would have had to a proposal for a new battle.
They trampled slowly back over the field across which they had run in a mad scamper.
The regiment marched until it had joined its fellows. The reformed brigade, in column,
aimed through a wood at the road. Directly they were in a mass of dust-covered troops,
and were trudging along in a way parallel to the enemy's lines as these had been defined
by the previous turmoil.
They passed within view of a stolid white house, and saw in front of it groups of their
comrades lying in wait behind a neat breastwork. A row of guns were booming at a
distant enemy. Shells thrown in reply were raising clouds of dust and splinters. Horsemen
dashed along the line of intrenchments.
At this point of its march the division curved away from the field and went winding off in
the direction of the river. When the significance of this movement had impressed itself
upon the youth he turned his head and looked over his shoulder toward the trampled and
debris-strewed ground. He breathed a breath of new satisfaction. He finally nudged his
friend. "Well, it's all over," he said to him.
His friend gazed backward. "B'Gawd, it is," he assented. They mused.